This evening, House leaders sneaked in a bill that would strip nearly $2-billion from state coffers by eliminating the state income tax. HB 1439 would threaten a meaningful teacher pay raise, school funding, and other state services we rely on to keep us safe and productive. The bill passed the House Ways and Means Committee and is headed to the House floor for a vote.
In a particularly offensive move, this year’s teacher pay raise was added to the tax cut bill, essentially holding the $1,000 teacher pay raise hostage to a bill that would almost surely eliminate the possibility of a more substantial pay raise next year or into the future. Legislators have told you that a $1,000 teacher pay raise is all they can afford this year, and they have promised to do better when revenue improves. HB 1439 will ensure that revenue will never improve. Thankfully, both the House and Senate have passed stand-alone teacher pay raise bills.
Legislators have been told that the state budget is protected in the bill by a phase-in and revenue growth triggers, but there is no phase-in and no trigger for the majority of the cut – much of it is automatic in the very first year. The bottom line is that it is extremely dangerous to rush through a bill that could have a devastating impact on public schools, teacher pay, state troopers, public health, and other critical services. The deadline for passage in the House is Wednesday, and legislators have not had time to read the bill, let alone do their due diligence on such a complex and sweeping measure.
ASK YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO VOTE NO on HB 1439; take time to thoroughly study the proposed tax cut and understand fully the impact on future teacher pay and school funding.
Capitol Switchboard: 601.359.3770
Those pushing the tax cut claim that stripping away a full third of the state’s General Fund – and all the services provided by it – would somehow make our state more livable. The experience of other states paints a vastly different picture. Former Gov. Brownback promised Kansans the same thing when he pushed through the elimination of their state income tax in 2012-2013. It was a catastrophe. Ditto for the Oklahoma debacle.
In the four years following the Kansas tax cut, the state suffered nine rounds of budget cuts, three credit downgrades, and what The Atlantic called “an ongoing atmosphere of fiscal crisis.” School budgets and other state services were decimated. In 2017, facing a furious electorate, the Kansas Legislature waived the white flag and rolled back the tax cuts.
Oklahoma’s income tax cut had a similar result. Here’s what the Tulsa World reported about the impact of that move:
“The situation has deteriorated to the point where highway patrol troopers have been warned not to fill their fuel tanks, and drunken drivers have been able to keep their licenses because there are not enough administrative workers to revoke their driving privileges. Nearly 100 of the state’s 513 school districts have moved to four-day weeks.”
Our Legislature has been making important strides toward better teacher pay and stronger public schools. A massive and hastily devised income tax cut could reverse all of that progress, exacerbate our teacher shortage, and send us reeling backward.
Reach out to your legislators, thank them for the progress we are making, and ask that they stand with us for better teacher pay, strong public schools, and a better Mississippi. Ask them to hold the line against sweeping changes to our revenue system until they know the true impact and have a real plan to move us toward a brighter future.